Overall, the 135i is great and lots of fun to drive. But in a utilitarian sense, it seems that a hatchback version of a car this size makes more sense than the one we're getting. Three- and five-door versions have been sold in Europe since 2004, but historically, buyers in the U.S. have demonstrated a marked distaste for hatchbacks. That BMW has gone so far as to re-engineer the back half of this platform for the North American market is telling of the importance assigned internally to this project.

The big question is how the 1 Series will endure after the first flurry when it goes on sale later this spring. Its MSRP registers around $5,000 less than a 335i coupe, but at $35,000 and change, it's definitely not what you'd call cheap. Enthusiast sales will likely light up the dealerships early on. It'll be interesting to see how many trade in a 3 Series to get a 135i.

2008 BMW 135i

-Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

-Engine
3.0-liter inline six, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged and intercooled

-Transmission
Six-speed manual

-Suspension
F: Double-joint tiebar spring strut axle
R: Five-arm axle

-Brakes
F: Six-piston fixed calipers, 13.3-inch rotors
R: Two-piston fixed calipers, 12.8-inch rotors

-Dimensions
Length/Width/Height (in.): 171.7/68.8/55.4
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3,274 lb

-Performance
Peak Power: 302 hp @ 5800 rpm
Peak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1300 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.3 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph

-What we like:
Smooth, copious power delivery, solid build

-What we don't:
Coupe seems less utilitarian than a hatch

THE PRICE TAG
$35,675

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